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That prayers before board meetings reflect individual County Commissioners' religious beliefs does not mean that County Board of Commissioners is "endorsing" a particular religion, Christianity or otherwise.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is an elected board of nine individuals representing the citizens of Jackson County, Michigan. The Board opens its monthly meetings with Commissioner-led prayers. Prayers offered by the Commissioners are generally Christian in tone and often ask "God," "Lord," or "Heavenly Father" to provide the Commissioners with guidance as they go about their business. Plaintiff, a "self-professed Pagan and Animist," objects to this practice. Plaintiff claimed that the custom violated the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution because the Commissioners themselves offer the invocations. The district court found that the Board’s prayer practice did not violate the Establishment Clause.
Did the prayer practice of the Board of Commissioners of Jackson County violate the Establishment Clause?
The court held that the prayer practice of the Board of Commissioners of a county fit within the tradition long followed in Congress and the state legislatures, and did not violate the Establishment Clause. The county's prayer practice did not fall outside historically accepted traditions, even though the Commissioners themselves led the invocations before the meetings. According to the court, the county did not engage in impermissible coercion merely by exposing plaintiff to prayer he preferred not to hear and in which he did not need to participate.